Fantasy Baseball Spring Training Takeaways: Hanley Ramirez shows health, Shelby Miller something completely new –

It’s not all bad news for the
Boston Red Sox

On the same day they got the Fantasy Baseball-playing world hyperventilating about
David Price
, they got an encouraging swing from
Hanley Ramirez

A spring home run wouldn’t be a big deal for a player of his renown except that he has already had to bow out of the World Baseball Classic because of a shoulder injury that has so far kept him from playing the field.

It shouldn’t prevent him from batting, the Red Sox have said, but we needed a 2-for-3 performance with a long home run to allay our concerns.

And some of us will need to trust in Ramirez as our first baseman in a 12-team league. The pool really thins out after him.

1. Seizing the opportunity

If Price indeed does miss extended time for the Red Sox, it frees up the logjam at starting pitcher.

Eduardo Rodriguez
had a good chance of cracking the starting rotation anyway since both
Drew Pomeranz
(elbow) and
Steven Wright
(shoulder) are dealing with minor injuries of their own. But those two were All-Stars a year ago and are presumably ahead in line.

Rodriguez, though, took his first step toward convincing the Red Sox he has nothing to gain from a Triple-A stint Thursday:

He had a 3.30 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 11 starts down the stretch last year, too, so the former top prospect in the Orioles organization would have plenty of sleeper appeal if he can secure a job.

2. Shelby … woo!

Not to bury the lede here, but
Shelby Miller
was more impressive than anybody Thursday, which is saying something because he was arguably the least impressive of anybody for all of 2016.

What did he do? What didn’t he do?

He didn’t surrender a walk. He didn’t allow a run. But he did strike out six over three innings. Yes, he did. He also registered a 99-mph fastball at one point, a mark that didn’t once record for him at any point last season.

And need I remind you this is his second start of spring training?

There’s a crazy backstory here, too. No doubt, his issues last year were mostly mechanical, but to cover all the bases, he adopted a diet developed for powerlifters by Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale that, according to The Arizona Republic, is supposed to imitate the effects of taking an anabolic steroid. But it’s all about eating habits, so, you know, totally legal.

Miller was an All-Star while still a mere mortal in 2015, so with another one of these starts, we should probably begin thinking about him in sleeper terms.

3. De Leowned

It wasn’t all sunshine and gumdrops Thursday.
Jose De Leon
, who has a clear path to the majors following his trade from the
Los Angeles Dodgers
, got his face handed to him by the Red Sox.

He said he couldn’t locate his fastball, which compromised his changeup, which is the key to everything. It makes sense and may be just a symptom of spring training, but seeing as he’s trying to beat out
Matt Andriese
 for a job, he can’t afford to take too many more lumps.

He’s not one of those guys who tops out in the high 90s, which calls his upside into question a bit, but he has been one of the most unhittable pitchers in the minors the past three years, compiling a 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings between five mostly hitter-friendly levels (and some winter league action).

De Leon remains one of the more exciting rookie pitchers to target on Draft Day.

4. Why are we Yelich!

I’ve already labeled
Christian Yelich
bust for 2017
and have repeated it in a few different places. He’s giving me one last chance to take it back.

Not there yet. I still wonder if he elevates the ball enough to come anywhere close to last year’s 21 home runs, especially with an unfavorable home park, but he already has two long balls this spring, including this opposite field blastoff a lefty Wednesday:

And according to manager Don Mattlingy, who has also said Yelich is on the verge of becoming a star, the
Miami Marlins
are really trying to tap into his power stroke this year.

“It’s all angles. Hitting is angles,” Mattlingly told “We’re working on Yelly getting to that ball middle-in. Him just growing. Using the front side is going to get the ball in the air and get backspin. It’s getting him to figure that out, and he will, and he is.”  

If Yelich changes his swing plane, then all bets are off, but by his own words, he seems reluctant to do so.

“My approach up there is to try to put a good swing on a pitch, and see what happens,” Yelich said. “I know a lot of guys are talking about swinging up on the ball, and get it in the air, all that stuff. I just don’t think about that stuff when I’m up there. I’m just trying to put together a good at-bat. I guess, if my ball goes at a good launch angle, it’s going to get a good result.”  

I’ll keep an open mind, though.

5. Blash-t off

Jabari Blash
got some attention last spring as a Rule 5 pick who could come into at-bats for the rebuilding
San Diego Padres
, but he was such a disaster that he’s pretty much an afterthought and actually doesn’t even have a spot on the 40-man roster as of now.

He’s doing his best to change that, though, homering for the third straight game Thursday.

Homering is what he does when he’s at his best. He had 32 of them between two levels in 2015, which is what inspired the Padres to acquire him from the Athletics immediately after the Rule 5 draft, but he played in hitter-friendly environments throughout his minor-league career and still has his share of skeptics, including his own manager.

“It’s spring training, he’s having good at-bats,” manager Andy Green told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I love the good at-bats. Sustaining it is where the challenge lies. It’s exciting to see the way he’s swinging it, but it’s just a few days right now.”

Still, the Padres figure to have one of either
Alex Dickerson
Travis Jankowski
in left field to begin the year, and neither is exactly a cornerstone player. I wouldn’t rule out Blash working his way into that mix, making him someone to have on your radar in NL-only leagues.


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